In the immediate post war period, right after FDR’s death, the 1946, Mid-Term elections brought back Republican control of Congress for the first time since 1928. By the time the new Congress was formed in 1947, the reactionary, right wing was already on the warpath in its hunt for radicals, communists, liberals, former New Dealers, and anyone who wasn’t a pure American by their definition.
But, in the post war period, there were two realities: the old Hollywood system was fading quickly as court rulings effected their control over their employees, profits had dropped dramatically, they were forced to give up control of their theaters, and television was attracting millions of viewers who used to go to the movies. The other factor was that the public demanded more realistic films, often dealing with the social issues of the day, like: Crossfire, Gentleman’s Agreement, Home of the Brave, The Men, The Best years of Our Lives, Sunset Boulevard, Northside 777, The Killers, Street Car Named Desire and Boomerang, just to name a few, which dealt with veterans, crime, bigotry, anti-Semitism and race.
This era would later be known as “Film Noir,” a genre of films that use the visual style and themes of classic film noir (French: “dark film”) but add a modern sensibility. They also usually contain more graphic depictions of violence and sexuality. Classic film noir thrived in the 1940s and ’50s. The genre was characterized by dark stylized cinematography and a pessimistic mood, perhaps reflecting the uncertainty of the postwar era. Plots typically featured troubled cynical characters often involved in the underworld. One could say that the “father” of this new era was the film, The Maltese Falcon, with its cynical private eye, Sam Spade.
The postwar era was changing dramatically. In the case of United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.,(1948) (also known as the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948,) a landmark United States anti-trust case decided the fate of film studios owning their own theatres and holding exclusivity rights on which theatres would show their movies. It would also change the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed and exhibited. The Supreme Court affirmed (a District Court’s ruling) in this case that the existing distribution scheme was in violation of the United States Sherman and Clayton anti-trust law, which prohibit certain exclusive dealing arrangements. In plain language, the studios were force to sell the theaters. Also in this era unions were flexing the muscles given to them by the New Deal and the Wagner Act. Also, without white-washing reality, there were many communists in the union movement, along with criminals.
The case is important both with U.S. antitrust law and film history. In the former, it remains a landmark decision in vertical integration cases; in the latter, it is responsible for putting an end to the old Hollywood studio system. Another earlier ruling, effectively altered the contractual system used universally in Hollywood. Industry lawyers in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s took the position that an exclusive personal services contract should be treated as suspended during the periods when the artist was not actually working. Since no artist could be working every single day (that is, including holidays and weekends), this interpretation meant that two, or later seven, years of actual service would be spread over a much longer calendar period, thus extending the time during which the studio system had complete control of a young artist’s career.
Hollywood was experiencing changes since the late 30’s especially with unionization and the creation of guilds, which gave the writers, the set designers, the film crews and the all the other lower- level employees new leverage and bargaining power.
As this new realism boiled over in the post war period the “The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals” (MPAPAI, also MPA), which had been created in 1944, became very active against both the writers and this new wave of artistic realism. This organization was made up of high-profile, politically conservative members of the Hollywood film industry. It had been formed for the stated purpose of defending the film industry, and the country as a whole, against what its founders claimed was communist and fascist infiltration.
The organization was described by its opponents as fascist sympathizing, isolationist, nativist, anti-union, mostly anti-Semitic, red-baiting and supporting of Jim Crow Laws. One Jewish member, the writer Morrie Ryskind denied these allegations of his fellow members. Prominent members of the Alliance included: Robert Arthur, Martin Berkeley, Ward Bond, Walter Brennan, Roy Brewer, Clarence Brown, Charles Coburn, Gary Cooper, Laraine Day, Cecil B. DeMille, Walt Disney, Irene Dunne, Victor Fleming, John Ford, Clark Gable, Cedric Gibbons, Hedda Hopper, Leo McCarey, James Kevin McGuinness, Adolph Menjou, Robert Montgomery, George Murphy, Fred Niblo, Dick Powell, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Ginger Rogers, Morrie Ryskind, Barbara Stanwyck, Norman Taurog, Robert Taylor, King Vidor, Hal B. Wallis, John Wayne, Frank Wead and Sam Wood. Of these actors, directors, executives and writers; Walt Disney, Adolph Menjou. Aside from these people generally accused of anti-Semitism; Walt Disney and Adolph Menjou, there were rabid right-wingers; John Wayne, Robert Taylor, and Cecil B. DeMille, who were quite vocal about their views. In truth, most of the Hollywood moguls were conservative Republicans. Most, including Louis B. Mayer, the operational head of MGM hated FDR and the New Deal. Only one studio head, Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers, was a supporter of Roosevelt.
As for their philosophical head, it may have been the rabid, anti-communist, Ayn Rand, (born Alisa Z. Rosenbaum) who wrote in 1947 a pamphlet for the Alliance, entitled Screen Guide for Americans, based on her personal impressions of the American film industry. It read, in excerpt:
The purpose of the Communists in Hollywood is not the production of political movies openly advocating Communism. Their purpose is to corrupt our moral premises by corrupting non-political movies — by introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories — thus making people absorb the basic principles of Collectivism by indirection and implication.
The principle of free speech requires that we do not use police force to forbid the Communists the expression of their ideas — which means that we do not pass laws forbidding them to speak. But the principle of free speech does not require that we furnish the Communists with the means to preach their ideas, and does not imply that we owe them jobs and support to advocate our own destruction at our own expense.
Rand cited examples of popular and critically acclaimed films that in her view contained hidden Communist or Collectivist messages that had not been recognized as such, even by conservatives. Examples included The Best Years of Our Lives, (because it portrayed businessmen negatively, and suggested that bankers should give veterans collateral-free loans), and A Song to Remember (because it implied without historical evidence that Chopin sacrificed himself for a patriotic cause rather than devoting himself to his music). Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge; she rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism as opposed to altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism, statism, and anarchism. Instead, she supported laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including private property rights.
Of course, in this climate and with the political changes in Congress, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives, which was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having either fascist or communist ties. It became a standing (permanent) committee in 1945. In 1938, Hallie Flanagan, the head of the Federal Theatre Project, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to answer the charge the project was overrun with communists. Flanagan was called to testify for only a part of one day, while an administrative clerk from the project was called in for two entire days. It was during this investigation that one of the committee members, Joe Starnes (D-Ala.), famously asked Flanagan whether the English Elizabethan era playwright Christopher Marlowe was a member of the Communist Party, and mused that ancient Greek tragedian “Mr. Euripides” preached class warfare. Of course, during the latter part of the New Deal, there were all sorts of attempts to discredit the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1939, the committee investigated people involved with pro-Nazi organizations such as Oscar C. Pfaus and George Van Horn Moseley. Moseley testified before the committee for five hours about a “Jewish Communist conspiracy” to take control of the US government. Moseley was supported by Donald Shea of the American Gentile League, whose statement was deleted from the public record as the committee found it so objectionable.
In 1946, the committee considered opening investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, but decided against doing so, prompting white supremacist committee member John E. Rankin (D-Miss.) to remark, “After all, the KKK is an old American institution.” Instead of the Klan, HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated the Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Theatre Project and the Federal Writers’ Project. Twenty years later, in 1965–1966, however, the committee did conduct an investigation into Klan activities under Chairman Edwin Willis (D-La.).
Of course, this sets the stage for the eventual making of the classic film, High Noon, and how it came about. This most interesting story is related by Glenn Frankel is his book on High Noon and the Blacklist, which almost destroyed its creator Carl Foreman and others who worked in this very dangerous period in our history.
Of course, in this post war climate, there was the rise of independent producers like Stanley Kramer. After the war, Kramer, who was born in the Bronx, and was Jewish, (he attended DeWitt Clinton HS and graduated at age 15, and graduated at 19 from NYU and eventually served in WWII) soon discovered that there were no available jobs in Hollywood in 1947, so he created an independent production company, Screen Plays Inc. He partnered with writer Herbie Baker, publicist George Glass and producer Carl Foreman, an army friend from the film unit. Foreman justified the production company by noting that the big studios had become “dinosaurs,” which, being shocked by the onrush of television, “jettisoned virtually everything to survive.” But they failed to develop cadres of younger creative talent in their wake.
Kramer’s new company was able to take advantage of unused production facilities by renting time, allowing him to create independent films for a fraction of the cost the larger studios had required, and he did so without studio control. Kramer also saw this as an opportunity to produce films dealing with subjects the studios previously avoided, especially those about controversial topics.
However, Kramer soon learned that financing such independent films was a major obstacle, as he was forced to approach banks or else take on private investors. He did both when necessary. But with studios no longer involved, rival independent companies were created which all competed for those limited funds. At that time, it was quoted that “there were no fewer than ninety-six” other companies in competition during that period, and included some of Hollywood’s biggest names: Frank Capra, John Ford, William Wyler, Howard Hawks, Leo McCarey, and George Stevens. Kramer explained how he tried to differentiate his new company from the others, explaining he was less interested in the money than having the ability to make a statement through his films.
His first real feature Champion (1949), another Lardner story, this one about an ambitious and unscrupulous boxer. Written by Foreman, it was tailored to the talents of Kirk Douglas, a former amateur wrestler who was now an actor. Filmed in only 23 days with a relatively small budget, it became an immense box-office success. It won an Academy Award for Best Editing, with four other nominations, including Douglas for best actor and Foreman as screenwriter.
Kramer next produced Home of the Brave (also 1949), again directed by Mark Robson, which became an even bigger success than Champion. The story was adapted from a play by Arthur Laurents, originally about anti-Semitism in the army, but revised and made into a film about the persecution of a black soldier. it was the “first sound film about anti-black racism.” The victim in the film was played by the Black Actor James Edwards, who was also featured in the original Manchurian Candidate, with Frank Sinatra, and as General George S. Patton’s valet in Patton. The subject matter was so sensitive at the time, that Kramer shot the film in “total secrecy” to avoid protests by various organizations. Critics generally liked the film, which, notes Nora Sayre, “had a flavoring of courage.”
His renamed Stanley Kramer Company produced The Men (1950), which featured Marlon Brando‘s screen debut, in a drama about paraplegic war veterans. It was the first time Kramer and Foreman worked with director Fred Zinnemann, who had been directing for twenty years and had won an Oscar. The film was another success for Kramer, who took on a unique subject dealing with a world few knew about. Critic Bosley Crowther noted that its “striking and authentic documentary quality has been imported to the whole film in every detail, attitude and word.”
In a parallel universe, in 1947, the HUAC committee held nine days of hearings into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry. After conviction on contempt of Congress charges for refusal to answer some questions posed by committee members, “The Hollywood Ten” were blacklisted by the industry. Beginning with these ten screenwriters who were sent to prison for up to a year, because they refused to answer HUAC’s inquisition-like questions under the supposed protection of the First Amendment, the blacklist quickly took root in 1947. And after HUAC redoubled its efforts in 1951 to not so much fact-find but act as jury, judge, and executioner to any subpoenaed witness they deemed “unfriendly” (who wouldn’t name names), hundreds of careers were destroyed or sidelined for years and decades. In many cases forever. The studios had decided back in ’47 that anyone who HUAC deemed “unfriendly,” or was simply accused by a friendly witness, should never be hired again.
Eventually, more than 300 artists – including directors, radio commentators, actors, and particularly screenwriters – were boycotted by the studios. Some, like Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Alan Lomax, Paul Robeson, and Yip Harburg, left the U.S or went underground to find work. Others like Dalton Trumbo wrote under pseudonyms or the names of colleagues. Only about ten percent succeeded in rebuilding careers within the entertainment industry.
In 1947, studio executives told the committee that wartime films—such as Mission to Moscow, The North Star, and Song of Russia—could be considered pro-Soviet propaganda, but claimed that the films were valuable in the context of the Allied war effort, and that they were made (in the case of Mission to Moscow) at the request of White House officials. In response to the House investigations, most studios produced a number of anti-communist and anti-Soviet propaganda films such as The Red Menace (August 1949), The Red Danube (October 1949) The Woman on Pier 13, (October 1949), Guilty of Treason (May 1950, about the ordeal and trial of Cardinal József Mindszenty), I Was a Communist for the FBI (May 1951, Academy Award nominated for best documentary 1951, also serialized for radio), Red Planet Mars (May 1952), and John Wayne‘s Big Jim McCain (August 1952). Universal-International Pictures was the only major studio that did not purposefully produce such a film.
In the wake of all the HUAC probes into Hollywood and its message, after the end of WWII and now during to the Korean Conflict, Kramer’s last independent production was High Noon (1952), a Western drama directed by Fred Zinnemann. The movie was well received, winning four Oscars, as well as three other nominations. Unfortunately, High Noon‘s production and release intersected with McCarthyism. Writer, producer and partner Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee while he was writing the film. Foreman had been a member of the Communist Party ten years earlier, but declined to “name names” and was branded an “un-cooperative witness” by HUAC, and then blacklisted by the Hollywood companies, after which he sold his interest in the company. Kramer, a long-time friend and business partner of Carl Foreman removed Foreman’s name from the credits as co-producer.
High Noon, which starred an aging Gary Cooper, centers on a town marshal whose sense of duty is tested when he must decide to either face a gang of killers alone, or leave town with his new wife. Though mired in controversy at the time of its release due to its political themes, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four (Actor, Editing, Score and Song) as well as four Golden Globe Awards (Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, and Black and White Cinematography). The award-winning score was written by Russian-born composer Dimitri Tiomkin (he was also one who was looked at by the HUAC investigators.
Eventually, High Noon was selected by the Library of Congress as one of the first 25 films for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 1989, the NFR’s first year of existence. An iconic film whose story has been partly or completely repeated in later film productions, its ending in particular has inspired numerous later films, including but not just limited to westerns.
The film takes place in the fictional Hadleyville, a small town in New Mexico Territory, in 1898, Marshal Will Kane, newly married to Amy Fowler, a Quaker, played by the young and nervous Grace Kelly, prepares to retire. The happy couple will soon depart for a new life to raise a family and run a store in another town. However, word arrives that Frank Miller, a vicious outlaw whom Kane sent to prison, has been released and will arrive at the noon train. Miller’s gang—his younger brother Ben, Jack Colby, and Jim Pierce—await his arrival at the train station.
- Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane
- Thomas Mitchell as Mayor Jonas Henderson
- Lloyd Bridges as Deputy Marshal Harvey Pell
- Katy Jurado as Helen Ramírez
- Grace Kelly as Amy Fowler Kane
- Otto Kruger as Judge Percy Mettrick
- Lon Chaney Jr.as Martin Howe, the former marshal
- Harry Morgan as Sam Fuller
- Ian MacDonald as Frank Miller
- Eve McVeaghas Mildred Fuller
- Morgan Farley as Dr. Mahin, minister
- Harry Shannon as Cooper
- Lee Van Cleef as Jack Colby
- Robert J. Wilke as Jim Pierce
- Sheb Wooley as Ben Miller
Of course, the townspeople really want no part of this fight and have a genuine fear for the life of Kane. His deputies and all the town’s leaders and elders eventually are no help to him. But, he is risking his life and limb to serve justice.
When faced with the threat of the Frank Miller Gang coming back to town, Kane feels that even though he’s already turned in his star (badge), he must face this challenge. And yet, no one will stand by his side. One by one, his friends, his co-workers in the form of Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) lone deputy, turn their backs and shirk their responsibility to do the right thing. They tell him to run away. So in the end, Cooper’s (Will Kane) scared, but assured stands alone, save for his Quaker wife who must forsake her religion to stand by a man whose community has disowned him.
Shot in black-and-white and with an intended modesty that was counterintuitive to the most popular grand Old West epics of that decade, many of them starring Wayne, High Noon was a jolt to the system for audiences inundated with Westerns that had little to say. And, depending who you ask, High Noon had quite a bit on its mind regarding the era in which it was made.
Of course, the right-wing, fiction writers, and modern day witch hunters took one look at who had produced High Noon; Kramer, Zinnemann and Foreman, all Jews, and thought the story was a metaphor for collectivism and communist subversion.
Like Gary Cooper, who was born in Montana, a Republican and a conservative, John Wayne was an active and vocal member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA). Which was the sanitized way of saying, “Hollywood’s Conservative Redbaiters.” Founded in MGM executive James K. McGuinness’ Beverly Hills home—Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick would later describe McGuinness as “the biggest anti-Semite in Hollywood”—the Motion Picture Alliance had its first public meeting in February 1944 with Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Cecil B. DeMille, and John Ford in attendance. Gary Cooper’s frequent director, Sam Woods, was elected president of the organization and Walt Disney vice president. (Wayne himself would become president of the organization in 1949, and was its leader during the height of the Hollywood blacklist and the release of High Noon.) Gary Cooper joined later that year.
As a conservative counterbalance to the perceived communist threat in Hollywood movies, particularly during the wartime years when Hollywood was eagerly making films sympathetic to Soviet Union in lieu of a united war effort, the Motion Picture Alliance publicly and proudly campaigned for the need to hunt down and fire any secret communists in the studio system. They also essentially invited Congress’ now notorious House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to begin investigating their industry.
In Glenn Frankel’s nonfiction study of Hollywood’s Golden Age, it is as much about American history as it is the motion picture history. Like the title says, Frankel’s High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic it is about how one of the most enduring Western to ever be put on celluloid came to be, as well as the story line became a political football, about communism versus Americanism, to be kicked around by John Wayne, a draft-dodger and a self-proclaimed super-patriot. John Wayne, who time and again recurs in the High Noon mythology as an antagonist more successful than the picture’s onscreen and cowardly townspeople, who fail consistently in running Gary Cooper’s marshal out of town. By comparison, the real life Wayne boasted with pride in his part of sabotaging the career of High Noon’s screenwriter, Carl Foreman and (ultimately) uncredited associate producer.
Ironically, what made Cooper and Foreman’s friendship so remarkable, despite Cooper being a well-known Hollywood conservative who even testified as a friendly witness before HUAC in 1947—Cooper saw a creative partner in Foreman, who was indeed a former member of the Communist Party. At least it wasn’t until screenwriter Martin Berkeley enthusiastically mentioned Foreman’s name to HUAC in ’51 while Foreman was on the set with Cooper and Zinnemann. But, were any of these people really communists? Hardly!
Quite like his protagonist Will Kane, Foreman had already long known his fate was to deal with the apocalyptic force that scared the hell out of his community. Prior to Berkeley’s namedropping of hundreds of supposed communists, including some like Foreman who actually were once members of that party, Foreman already received a subpoena to appear before the committee in September 1951, which was about the midway point of shooting High Noon. In the lead-up to his big day, Foreman’s script,, during pre-production, became sharper and more pessimistic, with the writer later claiming he even lifted dialogue for the craven and betraying friends of Will Kane from the pressures being placed on him by Stanley Kramer and fellow business partners in their independent company, Sam Katz, George Glass, and Sam Zagon, to cooperate with HUAC. If true, this would further explain Kramer’s ambivalence for the film’s dailies, which allegedly had echoes of his own bending to HUAC’s power before Foreman even testified.
After Foreman was accused of being a communist and then testified before HUAC, where he went through verbal contortions to say he was not a communist in the last year but would not confirm or deny if he’d ever been one (a questionable “limited Fifth Amendment” legal strategy), his relationship with Stanley Kramer was over, and he was initially even barred from finishing his position as “associate producer” until Cooper and Zinnemann stuck up for the writer. As soon as the principal photography on High Noon concluded, however, so did Foreman’s association with Kramer. As part of his lucrative buyout, he agreed to have his “associate producer” credit expunged from High Noon. (He’s still credited as writer.)
John Wayne, then president of the Motion Picture Alliance, decides to get deeply involved in the battle over High Noon and its legacy! Historian Gary Wills later described John Wayne’s role in this era as “to emerge after the battle and to shoot the wounded.” While he could show more sympathy for former communists than many of his contemporaries, including famed columnist Hedda Hopper ( a notorious right-winger and red-baiter), so long as they cooperated with HUAC and essentially went along with the witch hunt, he had no mercy for anyone like Foreman who attempted to stand alone against an overwhelming force. He resented the Will Kanes of Hollywood and he took a special, personal aim at derailing Carl Foreman’s career.
Foreman was likely naïve or too furious to see the big picture, but he used his unprecedented buyout for a new member of the blacklist to attempt forming an independent production company—and he had a most unusual partner: Gary Cooper. Wayne’s conservative friend and fellow charter member of the Motion Picture Alliance enthusiastically backed Carl Foreman’s production company, insisting it was a good bet and requesting Foreman announce his part in the venture. A press release came via Daily Variety, reporting that Cooper, Robert L. Lippert, and PR man Henry Rogers were going into business with a screenwriter who just refused to answer before Congress whether he was ever a communist. By all accounts, Wayne went ballistic.
As per Frankel’s book, Gary Cooper received personal pressure from Wayne, with Maria Cooper Janis remembering her father saying, “Wayne’s bit was if you did this [with Foreman], you’ll never work in this town again.” To be fair, Foreman’s attempt to break the blacklist in 1951 was likely always doomed, and Cooper received just as much pressure from columnist and friend Hedda Hopper as well as Jack Warner, a liberal studio mogul, who was the first to name names to HUAC and threatened to tear up a middle-aged Cooper’s contract at Warner Brothers.
Nevertheless, it is the special touch of attention that Wayne gave to Foreman’s association with Cooper, even after Cooper eventually and reluctantly stepped out of the deal. Like Thomas Mitchell’s mayor in High Noon, he not only didn’t want to help Foreman/Kane, but he took a practical pleasure in dissuading other townspeople, or movie stars, from lifting a finger.
One of Foreman’s last days in Hollywood involved the would-be producer meeting with John Wayne in Beverly Hills. Even with Cooper gone, Wayne was now pushing Henry Rogers to also abandon Foreman. He hoped to reason with Wayne, but he’d have better luck knocking over a mountain. Wayne was apparently furious that Foreman had embarrassed Cooper by having him betray the Motion Picture Alliance, and Wayne in turn wanted Foreman to betray his principles by crawling back to HUAC, admit he was once a communist, and name names.
When Foreman said maybe he’d just find work in Europe, Wayne responded by asking what makes him think he’ll be able to leave the country? Foreman took that as a threat, and by all appearances, even in his old age, Wayne probably wouldn’t have minded the inference. Foreman eventually did leave America, essentially exiled to the United Kingdom in search of work. It was the end of his marriage and the destabilization of his career, which he was able to rebuild after some years in Britain (and after the State Department revoked his passport so he couldn’t travel beyond the UK).
The film was made and it was a great success. High Noon has been cited as a favorite by several U.S. presidents. Dwight Eisenhower screened the film at the White House and Bill Clinton hosted a record 17 White House screenings of it. “It’s no accident that politicians see themselves as Gary Cooper in High Noon,” Clinton said. “Not just politicians, but anyone who’s forced to go against the popular will. Any time you’re alone and you feel you’re not getting the support you need, Cooper’s Will Kane becomes the perfect metaphor. Ronald Reagan cited High Noon as his favorite film, due to the protagonist’s strong commitment to duty and the law. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, it won 4, Gary Cooper, Cooper for Best Actor, and Film Editing, Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture and Best Song.
Yes, there were communists in Hollywood! There were also liberals, socialists, and pro-union workers. Were they marching to the order of Moscow or Stalin? Hardly! Did many of them join the Communist Party in the 30’s to seek and work for social and economic justice in a country where predator capitalism destroyed the economy with the Crash and the Depression? Yes. Thus, what did the witch hunt accomplish? Very little, but it did raise the ante on persecution in the name of Americanism.
- Gary Cooper– (1901-1961) Cooper’s most important film during the postwar years was Fred Zinnemann‘s Western drama High Noon (1952) with Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado. During the filming, Cooper was in poor health and in considerable pain from stomach ulcers. His ravaged face and discomfort in some scenes “photographed as self-doubt”, according to biographer Hector Arce, and contributed to the effectiveness of his performance. Considered one of the first “adult” Westerns for its theme of moral courage, High Noon received enthusiastic reviews for its artistry, On April 14, 1960, Cooper underwent surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for an aggressive form of prostate cancer that had metastasized to his colon. He fell ill again on May 31 and underwent further surgery at Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles in early June to remove a malignant tumor from his large intestine. After recuperating over the summer, On December 27, his wife learned from their family doctor that Cooper’s cancer had spread to his lungs and bones and was inoperable. His family decided not to tell him immediately. On January 9, 1961, Cooper attended a dinner given in his honor and hosted by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at the Friars Club The dinner was attended by many of his industry friends and concluded with a brief speech by Cooper, who said, “The only achievement I’m proud of is the friends I’ve made in this community.” In his last public statement on May 4, 1961, Cooper said, “I know that what is happening is God’s will. I am not afraid of the future.” He received the last rites on Friday, May 12, and died quietly the next day
- Stanley Kramer-(1913-2001) Director Steven Spielberg described him as an “incredibly talented visionary” and “one of our great filmmakers, not just for the art and passion he put on screen, but for the impact he has made on the conscience of the world.” Kramer was recognized for his fierce independence as a producer-director, with author Victor Navasky writing that “among the independents…none seemed more vocal, more liberal, and more pugnacious than young Stanley Kramer.”
His friend Kevin Spacey, during his acceptance speech at the 2015 Golden Globes, honored Kramer’s work, calling him “one of the great filmmakers of all time. He died on February 19, 2001, in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, aged 87, after contracting pneumonia.
- Carl Forman-(1914-1984) According to Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents—a 2002 documentary based in part on a lengthy 1952 letter from Foreman to film critic Bosley Crowther—Foreman’s role in the creation and production of High Noonhas been unfairly downplayed over the years in favor of Kramer’s. Foreman told Crowther that the film originated from a four-page plot outline he wrote that turned out to be very similar to a short story by John W. Cunningham called “The Tin Star.” Foreman purchased the film rights to Cunningham’s story and wrote the screenplay. By the time the documentary aired, most of the principals were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Zinnemann, and Cooper. Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names, a definitive account of the Hollywood blacklist, told a reporter that, based on his interviews with Kramer’s widow and others, the documentary seemed “one-sided, and the problem is it makes a villain out of Stanley Kramer, when it was more complicated than that”.
Richard Fleischer later claimed he helped Carl Foreman develop the story of High Noon over the course of eight weeks while driving to and from the set of The Clay Pigeon (1949) which they were making together. Foreman went to Britain to live and work. He developed a successful career. In 1975, Foreman returned to the US, and signed a three-picture contract with Universal. He co-wrote and helped produce a sequel to Navarone, Force 10 from Navarone (1978). It did not match the success of its predecessor. Carl Foreman was back home in the United States when he died of a brain tumor in 1984 in Beverly Hills, California. The day before he died he was told he would receive the long overdue Oscar credit for writing Bridge on the River Kwai.
- Fred Zinnemann (1907-1997) Austrian born Jewish immigrant, escaping Nazi persecution. He won four Academy Awardsfor directing and producing films in various genres, including thrillers, westerns, film noir and play He made 25 feature films during his 50-year career. Perhaps Zinnemann’s best-known work is High Noon (1952), one of the first 25 American films chosen in 1989 for the National Film Registry. With its psychological and moral examinations of its lawman hero Marshall Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper and its innovative chronology whereby screen time approximated the 80-minute countdown to the confrontational hour, the film broke the mold of the formulaic western. Working closely with cinematographer and longtime friend Floyd Crosby, he shot without filters, giving the landscape a harsh “newsreel” quality that clashed with the more painterly cinematography of John Ford’s westerns. During production he established a strong rapport with Gary Cooper, photographing the aging actor in many tight close-ups which showed him sweating, and at one point, even crying on screen..Screenwriter Carl Foreman apparently intended High Noon to be an allegory of Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s vendetta against alleged Communists. However, Zinnemann disagreed, insisting, late in life, that the issues in the film, for him, were broader, and were more about conscience and independent, uncompromising fearlessness. He says, “High Noon is “not a Western, as far as I’m concerned; it just happens to be set in the Old West.” Zinnemann died of a heart attack in London, England on March 14, 1997. He was 89 years old.
- John Wayne-(1907-1979) By contrast, John Wayne told an interviewer that he considered High Noon” the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” and later teamed with director Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo in response. “I made Rio Bravo because I didn’t like High Noon,” Hawks explained. “Neither did Duke [Wayne]. I didn’t think a good town marshal was going to run around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking everyone to help. And who saves him? His Quaker wife. That isn’t my idea of a good Western.” John Wayne died of cancer, some said it was attributed to his starring in the 1965 film, The Conquerors. Of the 220 film crew members, 91 (comprising 41% of the crew) developed cancer during their lifetime, while 46 (or 21%) died from it. When this was learned, many suspected that filming in Utah and surrounding locations, near nuclear test sites, was to blame. Although the number of cancer cases among the cast and crew is in line with the average for adults in the US at the time, the perception of a link between the film’s location and subsequent illness remains, not least because many of those involved in the film developed cancer at a younger age than average. Wayne, in particular, was a heavy smoker, and Wayne himself believed his stomach cancer to have been a result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit. How ironic that America’s self-anointed Super Hero, was a draft-dodger, who claimed draft-exemption, because of support of his family, after he left them, may have died from the results of the Atomic tests in Utah.
- John Parnell Thomas(1895 -1970) As a S. Congressman, and Republican Chairman of HUAC in 1947. Thomas was a staunch conservative opponent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal, claiming the President’s legislative agenda had “sabotaged the capitalist system.” Thomas opposed government support for the Federal Theatre Project declaring that “practically every play presented under the auspices of the Project is sheer propaganda for Communism or the New Deal.” In 1949 Thomas called the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, “the most dangerous man in America” and claimed that if Forrestal were not removed from office he would “cause another world war. Rumors about corrupt practices on the part of Thomas were confirmed when his secretary, Helen Campbell, sent documents to Drew Pearson, which he used to expose Thomas’ corruption in an August 4, 1948, newspaper article. As a result, Thomas and Campbell were summoned to answer to charges of salary fraud before a grand jury.
Thomas refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, the most common stance for which he had criticized accused Communists. Indicted, Thomas was tried and convicted of fraud, fined and given an 18-month prison sentence. He resigned from Congress on January 2, 1950. (A very recent, former president stated that by taking the 5th Amendment it was tantamount to guilt and that it was used by mobsters. He took it almost 450 times!)
In an ironic twist, he was imprisoned in Danbury Prison where Lester Cole and Ring Lardner Jr., both members of the “Hollywood Ten” were serving time because of Thomas’ inquiries into the film industry.